Avatar image for hawkshade
#1 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

No Caption Provided

๐•ฌ ๐•น๐–Š๐–œ ๐•ฐ๐–—๐–†

In 2019 Richard's best friend and lifelong comrade abandoned the path of heroism and begin his bloodsoaked rampage through the criminal underworld, dishing out violent retribution in the form of grusome mutilation and horrific torture that would turn the stomach of the most hardened criminal investigator.

To save him Richard needed to take his non-lethal crusade against crime to the next level. And so he purchased Avalon Industries at the price of almost ten billion dollars. It was nearly everything he had but he would pay any price to save his friend and save as many lives as he can in his adopted city, Gothic.

His first move after purchasing Avalon was moving its HQ from Los Angeles to Gothic City, taking advantage of the high cost of real estate in LA to sell at a profit and the low price of real estate in the beleaguered Gothic City to purchase a sky scrapper that had been abandoned since its original owners went bankrupt during one of Satar's attacks on Gothic at a fraction of its original cost.

This served two purposes. First, to recoup some of his expenditures incurred in the original purchase of the company and second to keep him in the heart of the city that needed him most, Gothic.

๐•ฐ๐–๐–ˆ๐–†๐–‘๐–Ž๐–‡๐–š๐–— ๐•ฟ๐–”๐–œ๐–Š๐–—

No Caption Provided

One hundred and thirteen floors. Glass, steel and stone construction. Constructed in the early two thousands with grants from a federal economic re-invigoration project targeting Gothic City it was intended to attract businesses, drive up the value of real estate and lead the way to a booming Gothic City. The project was an abject failure and the final blow came when one of Satar's attacks on the city sent businesses fleeing and property values collapsed.

The property set abandoned for years, slowly accumulating debt in unpaid taxes and maintenance expenses while its owners desperately searched for a buyer.

Now it belongs to Richard and it has been remodeled at his command. Windows were replaced with double panels of reinforced bullet proof glass. Walls were strengthened with rebar and hidden steel plates. Additional support beams of expensive supersteel alloys were added. Miles of fiber optic cable has been laid and the basement is host to a bank of three-phase turbo generators to provide six weeks of emergency power for the building.

A small army of security personal patrol the building. Ex-soldiers and former Gothic SWAT officers, veterans of Americans overseas wars and the perpetual warzone that is Gothic's streets. Equipped with heavy body armor, riot shields and non-lethal weaponry of all types they are the guards in the fortress that is the Excalibur Tower.

A network of concealed passageways were added, ostensibly for security and maintenance purposes, but deleted from the blueprints. These passageways serve as secret entrances and exits for Hawkshade and the remaining members of the Shadow Knights.

In addition to the general features of a large office building Excalibur Tower also boasts nearly every convenience known to man, from on-site medical care to multiple gyms to a number of suites for visiting executives and guests of the CEO, Richard.

๐•พ๐–š๐–‡๐–˜๐–Ž๐–‰๐–Ž๐–†๐–—๐–Ž๐–Š๐–˜ ๐–†๐–“๐–‰ ๐•ณ๐–”๐–‘๐–‰๐–Ž๐–“๐–Œ๐–˜

๐”ˆ๐”ต๐”ข๐”ช๐”ญ๐”ฉ๐”ž๐”ฏ ๐”๐”ฌ๐”ค๐”ฆ๐”ฐ๐”ฑ๐”ฆ๐” ๐”ฐ

The logistical branch of Excalibur provides for both its internal shipping and logistical needs as well as providing for the logistical needs of its clients, specializing in bulk shipments across long distances, through difficult terrain or in warzones.

It also provides a perfect cover when Hawkshade needs to transport himself, or some of his equipment, across the globe or into the areas where he is needed most.

๐•ฎ๐–†๐–‘๐–Ž๐–‡๐–š๐–—๐–“

Weapons research and development. Euompistically referred to as 'defense technologies division' Richard has retooled Caliburn into the centerpiece of the modern Excalibur industries with a specialization in technologies engineered to counter the enhanced capabilities of mutants and metahumans. In a short time Richard has gained a reputation as having sharp instincts when it comes to the development of tech that counters metahumans however the reality is that his time among the mutant assassins of the Strigidae cult taught him much about the powers and capabilities of metahumans and how they could be countered.

Unbeknownst to the world at large Hawkshade uses Caliburn as cover for the development of various gadgets and devices that assist him in combating and restraining superpowered criminals.

๐•ฏ๐–†๐–Ž๐–“ ๐•ด๐–“๐–‰๐–š๐–˜๐–™๐–—๐–Ž๐–Š๐–˜

While once Dain Industries focused on traditional energy sources and occasionally branching out into alternatives Richard has radically changed the focus of Dain Industries to specialize in nuclear power. Now DI researches, develops and manufactures components for nuclear power plants almost exclusively.

Behind the scenes Hawkshade pushes the development of nuclear power because he believes it is the most practical form of clean energy and nuclear technology is humanities best hope against superpowered villains.

๐•ถ๐–“๐–Ž๐–Œ๐–๐–™๐–‹๐–†๐–‘๐–‘ ๐•ฌ๐–Š๐–—๐–”๐–“๐–†๐–š๐–™๐–Ž๐–ˆ๐–˜

Perhaps the most venerable of Richard's acquisitions Knightfall Aeronautics is in some ways the crown jewel of Excalibur Enterprises. Like many other areas of the company Richard has changed its focus and now it concentrates on development of a 5th generation fighter and competes intensely with Boeing and Lockheed for lucrative defense contracts with the Pentagon.

Off the books it provides invaluable stealth, drone and airborne technology that Hawkshade aims to use to further his war on criminality.

No Caption Provided

Rules:

  • Open thread, feel free to visit.
  • Hawkshade's identity is a secret, no metagaming.
  • Sell the security within reason. If your character can defeat them, so be it.
  • Please respect the street level nature of the setting.
  • This is a location thread and short posts are welcomed with open arms.
  • CVnU rules apply.
Avatar image for warsman
#2 Edited by Warsman (5413 posts) - - Show Bio

Second attempt

Edit: trying to get video to work in a spoiler >_>

Edit:

Image result for break computer gif

Avatar image for hawkshade
#3 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

@warsman: Lol the thought is appreciated.

Avatar image for paragonxxx
#4 Posted by ParagonxXx (3992 posts) - - Show Bio

Awesome work, Lady Liberty! ^_^

Avatar image for rosso
#5 Posted by Rosso (5390 posts) - - Show Bio

The entire transformation is bittersweet T__T but this is awesome! [Love the ever-maintained motif.]

I'm gonna visit...not sure when, nor with whom, but I will.

Avatar image for penalty
#6 Posted by Penalty (172 posts) - - Show Bio

Oh, wow...awesome!

Avatar image for grimmwald
#7 Posted by Grimmwald (3329 posts) - - Show Bio

I love the aesthetic.

Avatar image for yazhun_sanvun
#8 Posted by Yazhun_Sanvun (1226 posts) - - Show Bio

From Kamelot to Avalon, and now Excalibur, all about that symmetry

Avatar image for hawkshade
#9 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio
Avatar image for hawkshade
#10 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso: It has been interesting, that is for sure.

Avatar image for hawkshade
#11 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio
Avatar image for hawkshade
#12 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

@grimmwald: Thanks, and me too. Batman is a cornucopia of atmospheric art.

Avatar image for hawkshade
#13 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

@yazhun_sanvun: Yep yep. Gotta uphold the traditions of the forerunners.

Avatar image for hawkshade
#14 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

The tech scrambled to keep up with Richard who towered over him by half a foot. "-and this is where we've set up the Dain Industries main." The red haired young man in the white labcoat said, clutching his clipboard as he struggled to keep up with the new CEOs long stride.

"What's this?" Richard asked, picking up a rod of dark grey metal.

"Ah! Yttrium-barium-copper oxide coated magnet. Despite its unremarkable appearance it is one of the most powerful superconductors in the world at room temperature. Most superconductors-"

"-have to be kept at subzero temperatures to remain superconductive."

"Umm, right. Right you are sir. Anyway, that is a prototype of a supermagnet for a fusion reactor design we have been working on. The core is steel and if you run an electric charge throu-"

"Supermagnet. So you solved the grain boundary problem?"

The tech stalled. "Ummm.." He flipped through the papers attached to the clipboard. "Umm.. yes, using an.." He squinted at the paper and then gave a nervous chuckle. "You know I'm not entirely certain how it was solved, superconductors aren't my field."

"It's fine." Richard said as he picked up a few more of the slender rods laying around the table and dropped them into his suit pocket.

"Hey, um, actually those are-" The tech started to object.

"Mine?"

"Uhh, yeah. Yeah. Yours." A heartbeat of awkward silence. "Anyway if you will follow me into the next room you can see the first stages of the Apollo reactor prototype which was just finished early last year and.." His voice trailed off as the two moved into the next room.

Avatar image for hawkshade
#15 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

Sun beamed through the bay window upon a polished ebony desk and Richard's feet were resting upon its surface while the twenty year old CEO leaned back in his leather chair, eyes closed and an IV sticking into his left wrist. The bag hanging from a hook on the ceiling was filled with a concoction of fluids, vitamins and nootopic agents that he designed, sourced and mixed himself.

His chest rose and fell and the big man appeared to be sleeping. He wasn't.

In his minds eye he was scrolling through page after page of technical specifications and testing data for a directed energy weapon. He had 'reviewed' the project and the Caliburn lab by flipping through a few folders of paperwork of a prototype ultrasonic array, tossing the folder back upon the lab tabletop when he had finished, file after file of information committed to memory.

Now he called up diagrams of sonic arrays and begin to make alterations to them. Removed an unnecessary component here. A safety feature there. Substituted one material for a lighter, but more expensive one. When the model was done he held it there in his memory, picturing every feature and detail as clearly as if he was recalling his own face.

Richard called it version one and committed it to memory. Then he spun it about in his minds eye, various components flying off and two new parts flying in to replace them as he assembled a second, experimental design of his own creation in his mind. He would assemble them both later and test them against one another.

The door opened. "Mr. Vasiliev? A phone call for you. It sounded urgent." His assistant. She offered him the phone in her hand.

He took it. "Speak."

"Trouble in Japan sir. The contract with Yamaha."

"I'll be there tonight." He hung up and tossed the phone to his assistant. She fumbled but caught it

"Sir?"

"Have the jet started."

"Which pilot would you like?"

"None. I'll fly myself."

He filed the second experimental sonic array away in his mind as he removed the IV, rolled his sleeve down and walked out the door.

Avatar image for yazhun_sanvun
#16 Posted by Yazhun_Sanvun (1226 posts) - - Show Bio

"Trouble in Japan sir.

"I'll be there tonight."

No Caption Provided

Avatar image for sii-la
#17 Posted by Sii-la (397 posts) - - Show Bio

I respect how you repurposed an old concept of someone else's with so much respect and awareness to the original and the transition while still organically making it lead to your own end result. Not a lot of people can pull it off.

Avatar image for hawkshade
#18 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio
Avatar image for hawkshade
#19 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

@sii-la: Hey, I appreciate that. I really do. CV's history means a lot to me. Its unique traditions and its players and the legacies of the people who helped me get where I am now. Excalibur is the heir to the linage of Kamelot and Avalon and I tried to pay my respects to that legacy and those accomplishments without doing it in a way that ripped them off. Hopefully I succeeded to some degree.

Avatar image for sii-la
#20 Posted by Sii-la (397 posts) - - Show Bio
Avatar image for hawkshade
#21 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

If a stranger were to enter the elevators of Excalibur Tower they would find nine basement floors. But there was a tenth floor. A secret floor to which entry was barred by a vault door. And only one man could enter.

He was there now.

Richard's sleeves were rolled up to the elbow and the top buttons on his shirt were undone. A drone circled him in a slow, lazy arch. Light gleamed in his eyes and it wasn't metaphorical; the contact lens control device was overheating. He winced and took it out, placing it upon the sterile surface of his work bench.

Then he crossed the room to where his ultrasonic array was mounted to a work station, tools neatly arrayed to the left and right like metallic wings.

He scowled. It was still too heavy. But if he was going to save Grimmwald he would need to figure it out.

He wished Tessa was here.

Avatar image for humansfirst
#22 Edited by HumansFirst (264 posts) - - Show Bio

One hour, fifty three minutes. Not bad time, all things considered.

Diaz peeled flecks of blood and skin from his hardened stonce knuckles, the rocks themselves peeling away along with the portions of his victims as he did so.

God damn thing's gotta be a mile tall. F*ckin' pricks. Well, you know what they say, the bigger they are, harder they fall 'n all that jazz. Lessee then... Wind's blowin' pretty hard, but steady at least. Buildings gotta be maybe three hundred yards or so from 'ere, not exactly ideal... so why don't we fire right... about... here.

An explosion of force, followed by the tell-tale hiss and a trail of smoke, and a single thermobaric rocket was well on its way to the thirty-second floor of the massive tower. Diaz rose, taking the binoculars in hand and watching as the massive explosion sent pressure waves rippling across the bulletproof glass, the pane upon which it impacted shattering beneath the sustained pressure wave, but containing most of the explosion outside. The personnel within began to scatter and panic immediately, but two or three were still stunned by what force had managed to enter through the reinforced panes of advanced bulletproof glass.

Bulletproof, bah. 'Course it would be. Shoulda brought the HEAT afterall.

Without missing a beat, the earthen creature loaded the next rocket into the tube, extending his arm beyond human lengths and forcing it in with less delicacy, but more speed, than most mortal men would dare. He took careful aim, as the anti-personnel, high-explosive incendiary rocket was a rare find, and one of his favorites. Hand-modified by Leo Herric prior to his untimely death, they were especially well suited to sowing chaos in enemy ranks, which meant that they would almost certainly draw out the Hawk.

Accounting for all past variables, he once again took careful aim, accounting for the altered shape and weight of the current projectile as well as windage, gravity, air pressure, and the like.

C'mon hole in one...

Another explosion rocked his body back, with the trail of smoke born from the second rocket almost perfectly overlapping the first. The projectile smashed into the concrete wall opposite the originally impacted window, the fragmentation shredding the personnel still stunned by the initial strike, killing them instantly. But the carnage did not end with them.

Two thousand, eight hundred and eighty seven incendiary pellets scattered across the area. Thermite, aluminum-magnesium alloy, and phosphorus all burned with lethal heat, igniting walls, carpeting, paper, ink, wooden fixtures, and even melting metal. Diaz chuckled as he viewed the fires through the high powered binoculars, smiled as they began their course across the floor, delighting in the dancing flames enveloping the area, and the din of screaming and alarms that he could faintly hear from his position.

Gotcha...

He set down the binoculars, watching with satisfaction as smoke rose from the broken window.

Well, no reason to stop until I'm stopped. His hands seized yet another thermobaric warhead, screwing the propelling charge onto the base and loading it into the launcher once more. Conventional wisdom said to change position, to avoid enemy counterattack on the position marked by the trails of easily seen smoke. But this was no conventional battlefield, and revealing his presence to the enemy was the very intent of the attack. Damage was a secondary concern. What he wanted, what he needed, was to force the black defender of Gothic's long and deadly nights into the light of day, seize him by the scruff of the neck, and force him to answer his questions. He could even collect the paltry reward for the avian avenger afterward, if it struck his fancy, but for now, his sole desire was to lure him out, to find out more about the vigilante who prowled the city streets as the infamous Hawkshade's contemporary, and choke any information he might have out of him.

@hawkshade:

Avatar image for hawkshade
#23 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

@humansfirst:

There were screams and there was fire and Richard Vasiliev's security team threw open the door to his executive office-- "Sir!" The first man through the door was at least six two with the collar of his shirt straining to contain his bull neck. Former special forces turned Blackwater mercenary turned captain of Excalibur security.

"There is an attack we need to ge-.." He looked around.

"Sir?" The office was empty. Richard was already gone.

Broad daylight. Hawkshade thought as he lifted the sewer grate and climbed onto the street. Twenty feet in front of him was the shooter. Ash from the backblast made a cone on the pavement behind him.

And alone. Bold.

Heavy black combat boots didn't make a sound as the former Strigidae crossed the ground between him and the strange man. His cowl picked up chatter from his buildings security staff. Casualties. Lots of them. Those were his people. They counted on him. Depended on him.

Dead.

Probably because of him.

A scowl split his face. An intensity fell upon his shoulders, a grim mantle of focus over the black cape.

There was no warning and no banter. Hawkshade just whipped a massive fist through the air toward where the liver would have been on the mans back. It wasn't a punch so much as it was a sledgehammer. A two hundred and forty pound master of a half dozen martial arts, the peak of human physical potential-- the strike would dent steel or shatter concrete.

He went for the liver, not the head. He wanted this to hurt.

Avatar image for humansfirst
#24 Posted by HumansFirst (264 posts) - - Show Bio

'Nother ten, fifteen minutes maybe. Takes time to stroll across Goth--

His thoughts came to a sudden, jerking stop as the sound of a fist crunching against the stone of his outer shell interrupted them. A large chunk of mud flew out from underneath his loose shirt and worn denim jacket, sailing lazily off the side of the roof and down several stories before landing with a dull thud on the pavement below. Diaz wheeled around, torso turning in isolation from his still planted feet, the missing chunk of flesh tossing his balance into disarray. An arm reached down to steady the falling body, mud-tinted ooze seeping between the latex strips approximating skin.

"Found ya!"

His original intent was to hold his mud-like form a secret, a trump card should the tide turn unpleasantly, but the vigilante's blow had dashed those hopes almost immediately, but liberatingly so. The latex bindings keeping his body in its human shape expanded, bubbling where the rubbery strips were weakest, before finally snapping beneath the expanding earthen flesh.

"Had a few questions for ya, bird brain. Here's hopin' you'll indulge me..."

Even as he spoke, the silt within his torso churned and billowed, manipulated by unseen, unknowable forces.

"After you've had some time ta cool off!"

He shot his hand up and to the side, a clearly telegraphed haymaker, but his true strike came from within, an unorthodox attack utilizing his heavily altered physiology.

"C'mere birdy! No need to be afraid of your ol' buddy!"

An odd approximation of a human limb spewed forth from the core of his frame, an attempt to envelop the masked hero, to drag him into his body's center and choke the resistance from him, to make his will more pliable, more susceptible to his questioning. Even as he struck out, he could not help but laugh, the wet, sticky sound bubbling out of his inhuman maw.

"Hueh heh heh heh heh!"

@hawkshade:Sorry it took so long, my laptop is still down, so I can only post when I'm at work or when I have time to go to the library.

Avatar image for hawkshade
#25 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

@humansfirst:

His fist punched through the shell and Hawkshade blinked in surprise. This wasn't what he expected. He remained in motion, circling to the left, eyes widening as what he thought was a man transformed into a bulging mass of brownish-- he sniffed, detecting geosmin-- clay?

What the hell.

A massive arm rose up in arching haymaker. Slow. Awkward. Hawkshade snorted as he ducked; this would be easier than he though-- the amorphous appendage caught him off guard and snatched him off his feet and yanked him toward the creature. He struggled to no avail; how could one wrestle against such a beast?

Mud. He thought frantically as he struggled, being dragged inexorably into the body of the beast. Semi-liquid. Composition H2o, loam, silt or clay.

His martial skills were useless; strikes would have no effect. Nor were the variety of sharp instruments on his body. How could you cut down a man made from mud?

It was almost too late. He took one final gulp of air before he was dragged into the body of the creature.

Then he vanished.

Seconds passed. Almost a minute.

Inside the creatures body Hawkshade played his part. He struggled. Kicked. Flailed. To no avail. But he had set upon a course of action within seconds of realizing the creature was mud and the struggles only served to disguise the working of his hands and fingers inside the creature (as he assumed it possessed the sensory ability to track an object inside it.)

Gloved fingers worked blind with astonishing dexterity, especially given that he was trapped inside the mud. They snatched two Iaculum's from his utility belt and pressed two studs and twisted, popping the core free from the casing. They were smoke Iaculums that worked by igniting white phosphorus. It produced smoke but it also burned at an extremely high heat. High enough Hawkshade had designed the casing with care to prevent causing accidental fires.

When a high temperature was applied to clay or sand it it was fired; the moisture was evaporated and what remained was hardened into pottery or glass. It took temperatures as high as 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit to turn sand into glass.

White phosphorus burned at 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. And Hawkshade dropped two inside the mud of the creature, squirming away from them and disguising the movement as an attempt to escape.

Then he activated his cowls electronics suite and detonated them both remotely.

Avatar image for humansfirst
#26 Posted by HumansFirst (264 posts) - - Show Bio

@hawkshade:

"Go ahead, get it outta yer system. We can talk after yer all tuckered out."

A smile spread across his runny face, revealing the row of disfigured granite teeth. Victory had come quickly, easily. The masked vigilante that had become synonymous with Gothic's hero culture was now squirming his way to suffocation within him. He could feel him struggling, fighting for every inch of movement inside the harshly molding clay churning all around him.

The hero's panic was immensely satisfying, but terrorizing do-gooder hypocrites always was.

"Tell ya what, you help me out, answer a few questions about one a yer fellow vigs, the horned guy in spandex, 'n maybe I won't drown your ass in claโ€”huh?"

The burning had started, the heat itself registering as anything more than a tingle, a passing sensation of little import, but the sudden loss of mobility, the quickly hardening area where his ribs and abdomen should have been, that he felt in full.

Immediately, he separated himself from the impromptu firing of his internals, spilling the hero out onto the roof's surface along with the improvised incendiary devices, reducing his mass immensely, but freeing himself from the immobilizing effects of the attack.

"Well, that wasn't very kind o' ya. Here I jus' wanted ta make friends, and you're settin' all yer toys on fire rather n' sharin'. Didn' yer mama teach you better'n that?"

It was the usual banter, but there was an edge to his voice that hadn't been there before. Agitation, anger, perhaps a tinge of fear, all united to form a low, menacing growl directed at vigilante's shielded eyes.

"Guess I'll havta make sure yer nice and pliable before I start my little interview, eh?"

The mud forming his left arm drooped lazily downward, almost melting onto the rooftop. From there it would make its way to the abandoned mass of mud, thick veins of silt rejoining the inert earthen puddle and making him whole once more. In the meantime, he could not afford to allow his opponent time for rest or recovery, he had already proven what he could do with a moment to think things through. Diaz's right fist curled and grew, his fingers forming into a dense earth bludgeon before he brought the arm smashing downward, the clay crushing in the rooftop in an attempt to force the hero back toward the abandoned mud, to possess it, spire it upward and skewer his foe's limbs, breaking the bird's wings, grounding him, leaving him vulnerable.

He would get that information, and if he had to twist the bird's bones to dust in order to obtain it, that would just be an added bonus.

Avatar image for grimmwald
#27 Posted by Grimmwald (3329 posts) - - Show Bio
I'll be seeing you in Gothic soon, brother
I'll be seeing you in Gothic soon, brother

Avatar image for hawkshade
#28 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio
Avatar image for hawkshade
#29 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

Richard yawns with boredom as he waits for zaubs

Avatar image for hawkshade
#30 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

@humansfirst:

Richard's first memory was of fighting. The Secret Masters used a simple method to motivate the children to improve; children were divided into groups of ten. For every ten children there were nine meals. The ten children fought a torment at the end of every day. Whoever placed last went hungry.

You fought to live or you died. He had lived. Sometimes the faces of the children who had died appeared before him in his dreams.

Though a mere twenty years old he had a decade and a half of daily experience at combat and he instinctively recognized that his foe thought he was the heavyweight. It was hard to read the body language of a mass of mud but the creature didn't take any defensive actions, he flowed from offense to offense, just as a much larger man would do against a much smaller one.

He thinks he has more firepower.

Wrong.

It was time to take the offense.

When the clubbing overhand blow came down Hawkshade took a risk and dived to the side instead of leaping backwards. This meant he maintained line-of-sight on the central mass of mud that made up his foe; his view wasn't blocked by the massive appendage that smashed the ground where he once stood.

But the maneuver came at a cost. It was a fraction of a second slower and the club of mud struck his shoulder like a hammer. Even the stoic vigilante let out a little grunt of surprise as a sharp dagger of pain ran down the radial nerve in his left arm.

I can't feel my fingers.

But there was no time to dwell on his injury and his good hand flew into action, a blur of black as he snatched a Iaculum from his waist and let it fly.

He rarely used this type. Explosive, a powerful one. Powerful enough to kill foes who weren't super-durable. It flashed through the air, a black blade spinning like a flying shadow, targeting the center of Diaz's body. If it connect it's edges were likely sharp enough to pierce into the mud at which point it would explode.

If it exploded inside his body the shockwave would be a hammer of force and a furnace of heat. More than enough to kill even a superhuman foe.

But Richard suspected that this monster wouldn't go down so easily. Much less die.

So he threw another one. And then another.

Three thunderclaps, shattering windows for half a block away, vibrating the ground under their feet and not heard so much as felt. Three sudden sparks of miniature infernos inside Diaz's mud body (if successful.)

He bared his teeth like a wolf. Like his mother.

"This is my city. You hurt my people. Now I'm going to hurt you."

His deep voice rumbled through the shellshocked silence in the aftermath of the Iaculum's explosion. Dust and smoke and burning embers drifted through the air and the powerful frame of the Heir to Shadow walked through the billowing grey cloud.

He rolled his neck.

"I'm going to enjoy this. I want you to know that. You're going to have nightmares about this beating and every time you wake up in a cold.. ooze.. or whatever you do instead of sweat I want you to remember that I enjoyed every second of the worst day of your life."

Avatar image for humansfirst
#31 Posted by HumansFirst (264 posts) - - Show Bio

@hawkshade:

The thick mud hammer smashed into the hero's arm, and through the minutest of changes in his structure he could sense that something in the arm had given way, had broken beneath the blow, but still the vigilante did not yield, still he stared up at him in defiance.

"Jus' give already, pal! I just wanna ask you some questions 'bout yer horny friend, used to trapeze around here a while back. See, he's been real busy, travelin' around, kidnappin' my palsโ€”'"

Then, in the most fleeting of moments, he saw it. A night black, bladed tool held in the hand he hadn't crushed, whipping out at blinding speed. At first, he only smiled, thinking the sharpened edges just that, a projectile honed to a hair's width, meant to cleave free some earthy flesh from his form, but as it left the shadowy crusader's hand, he lost track of it, unable to see the projectile even as it soared through the bright, day-lit space between them. He only saw two things: its origin, and the devastation it inflicted.

The explosion burst through the weakest points in his structure, the heat firing a significant mass within his torso, the blast separating the pieces that formed his arms from his core, which itself blew outward in great heaving chunks of moist, earthen spray. Still the masses of mud quivered and writhed, the remains working even then to piece themselves back together, save for those that fell off the roof, which had escaped whatever invisible influence Diaz held over them.

No Caption Provided

The other two explosives mangled the mud-based mutant even further, throwing large chunks of his silt flesh from the rooftop and pounding much of that which remained into ceramic dust. His body, or what was left of it after the burning force of the explosive laculums had finished echoing through it, surged back together slowly, now lacking the granite structure he used as a skull. His already sunken eyes deflated, forcing the milky white, pupil-less eyes to squish around in runny earth as he sneered up at his approaching opponent. Fully half the mass of the clay-born creature had flown off their battleground and onto the streets below, and that which faced him now had lost much of its ominous stature.

He listened, the sound coming in as though he were deep below water. His hearing organs, free-floating structures of empty air and rattling rock and goop, reformed themselves as the voice mocked him, taunted him as though he were already defeated. On one hand, it was advantageous that his foe thought himself victorious, believed the mud-man vanquished or vulnerable, it would make him confident, overconfident, more likely to slip up. On the other hand, it irritated the ever-living hell out of Diaz.

'Course that's how you think this ends. Hero beats the bad guy, credits roll, everybody leaves the theater with a smile on his 'r her face an' a hankerin' fer the sequel, right?

Yeah. That's not how life works out here, pal.

"Startin' ta really hate those toys o' yers, pal, but if you think this 's the worst day o' my life, yer dead wrong. This don't even cut top ten."

The voice came from the sneering, still reforming head, a bubbling, churning mass of clay located just off-center of the smoke and dust that obscured the blast zone, just outside the billowing cloud of debris.

"So, go ahead. Do yer worst. Lessee if you can hurt me more'n I hurt the drones in that office buildin' over there. Hueheheheh!" The sneer on his face infiltrated his voice as he spoke, its tone thick with contempt and loathing, the words trailing into the same bubbling laughter he'd employed often to provoke his foes into action.

Meanwhile, hidden behind the smokescreen created by the explosive projectiles, the remains of Diaz's legs formed into a scorpion-like tail which held a large, jagged piece of fired clay, one born of the hero's fiery assault. Diaz's thick, wet laughter welled up from the disturbing mask outside the smoke as he patiently waited for the vigilante's anger to overtake his caution, for him to make good on his promises of nightmarish violence and pain. When he did, the twisting javelin of clay, augmented with the hardened ceramic spear-tip, would launch at blinding speed, through his trunk and straight into the rooftop, pinning him, the spear's haft collapsing into mud at his waist and wrapping around the compartment from which he had drawn his last weapon.

It was a last ditch effort to prevent the further firing of his form, to stop it from scattering to the streets below, but more importantly, it was meant to prevent escape.

Whether he could manage his assault as perfectly as he planned or not, it hardly mattered. The blood he craved was beginning to compromise his purpose for coming, and he knew that if he continued on his current course he would either extinguish his opponent or fall himself before he could glean anything useful.

This was the end game, and he needed to know more about Sorabella's girl. As much as he loathed the supposed hero, it was time for compromise. So, for the sake of an old friend, he swallowed his pride (and his hate) and extended the only olive branch he would likely ever offer.

"Pal, we're gettin' nowhere fast. Now I'll admit, probly wasn't the best idea to go blowin' people up ta get ya here, but cher here now, so let me get to the meat of it all before we kill each other."

The mud face, wherever it was after Gothic's guardian was done with it, spat from itself a cracked ceramic case, which, when split, revealed a cellphone, a throwaway burner with a single video file on it. It played automatically what Diaz had watched a hundred times already, Sorabella's only child (that the two friends knew of) being dragged into the abyss of her own shadow by a horned demon, one closely resembling the one that had prowled Gothic's streets not so long ago.

"He's kidnapped one a my pals, n' after what I saw in there, skins coverin' the place like some psycho's idea of wallpaper, I ain't gonna let 'im keep her. I was hopin' ta draw him out here by blowin' the place ta hell, 'stead I got you" A lie, but not an implausible one. "So tell me where this sunnuvabitch is, an' I'll leave the resta this place alone. Hell, you can even plant a tracker in my ass so that you know where I am, or I can come back an' ring yer bell again, mano a mano, if that's what ya really want, but 'fore we tear each other apart I gotta find the girl there. I owe it ta her an' her father. She wouldn't a been there, wouldn'tve got caught by that freak, if I hadn't dragged 'er into it all. So lemme make this right. Then we can meet up again an' you can blow me ta kingdom come, cut me ta pieces, trap me in a plastic tube n' prod me to death or whatever."

His words whittled themselves into a plea, an unintentional consequence of his sincerity

"But let me do some right first."

Avatar image for rosso
#32 Edited by Rosso (5390 posts) - - Show Bio

one a my pals

Stop Snitching - GIF - Snitch StopSnitching JeanClaudeVanDamme GIFs

I'ma kill him myself if Hawkguy doesn't.

DISCLAIMER because I know you: I'm not actually mad! Just roll with it! We can play with this.

Avatar image for humansfirst
#33 Posted by HumansFirst (264 posts) - - Show Bio

@rosso: That's "pal" in the, err, business sense... yeah. Let's roll with that.

Well, I mean, he can't subdue this slippery mother without the mass to attack freely, so he's gotta try something.

Avatar image for hawkshade
#34 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

@humansfirst:

Smoke and cinders and black ash swirled around Hawkshade as he stalked through the smoke toward the ghastly head of clay that had emerged from the ground. The vantablack of his cape billowed around him like a ribbon of midnight.

The head of clay spoke, his speech a distorted mockery of the human voice. Richard wanted to punch that face in. Just for the satisfaction.

But he was not so sloppy. This creature was dangerous. Big. Powerful. Possibly possessing unknown capabilities. So he hung back, slipping through the smoke like a hawk in the dusk.

His eyes never stopped hunting for a weakness and he activated his Blackhawk drones. Silent they buzzed through the streets, closing in on the pair but still several blocks out.

But while he was thinking Diaz was acting. A projectile of clay snatched him from his feet like a ragdoll, wrapping around his waist (and utility belt) and pinning him to the roof, almost too fast for him to react.

Almost.

The abomination held him there and held up a smart phone. Richard flipped on his cowl's recorder; he'd want to see this again.

There was Grimmwald. And there was another. The redhead that had been with his brother when they met in Black House. Under the cowl his eyes widened. What did she have to do with this? Why was she so important to Kellan?

Then he listened to the offer. Help this thing? Help it find his brother, Grimmwald? Help it after it had attacked his city and caused the death of his employees?

He spat in Diaz's clay face.

"No."

There was a twist of his wrist inside the mud that held him tight. This great beast of clay was fast but Hawkshade was once counted among the Stirigdae and was as quick as a serpent; he had palmed a smoke Iaculum in the heartbeat between the time he had spotted the spear of clay and the time it had struck him. Hawkshade flipped a white phosphorus charge into the clay that bound him and activated it and a miniature furnace was born in an eighth of a second, a spark that burned at five thousand degrees, presumably firing the clay that held him.

Assuming this was successful Hawkshade roared as muscles strained against his costume. There were strong men and then there was Hawkshade who pushed at the border that separated man and superman. Clay (assuming it had been fired) shattered and he fell free, twisting mid air to land on his feet.

"You think you get a pass because you hint at some sob story? I don't think so freak."

Avatar image for humansfirst
#35 Posted by HumansFirst (264 posts) - - Show Bio

@hawkshade:

He sneered in contempt as the answer came, the spit splattering against a face of open earth. "No, huh? Yeah... That's about what I figured."

The explosion came next, not entirely unexpected this time. The hawk had caught on quick, the clay that burnt away resulting in the further loss of manipulable mass. He was beginning to run thin on resources, while his friend seemed all too happy to toss more toys his way.

"'Specially outta a 'hero' from Gothic. Better nature'n all that, it's for the birds, right? Tell ya what, I'm just as tired of this dance as you are, so why don't we go ahead an' wrap this up? You got nothin' to say? Fine by me. I'll go ahead n' shut yer trap fer good."

A cold rage coursed beneath each of Diaz's words. He had exposed too much, far too much, to one he was told had some semblance of honor. He should have known the hero's reputation had been exaggerated. No man in Gothic ever acted out of anything but selfish compulsion, and it looked like the black hawk was no different. He had a grudge, and he satisfied it by breaking bones and bloodying innards, all while thinking himself the better man.

He was a hypocrite, and there was nothing Diaz hated more than a man who forbid to another what he reveled in himself.

The supple earthen face the hawk spoke down to melted away into a pool inert earth, the stinger-formed legs instead compiled themselves into a fitting form, a gaunt monster coated in the fired earthen shards. He wasted no time, both hands coating themselves in the ceramic spikes and lashing out with enough force to powderize bone. The assault seemed wild, but there was a plan in place for each blow. Every strike had its purpose. Diaz had realized at the outset of their battle that if he truly wanted to bury Gothic's infamous protector, he would have to not only outfight him, but outthink him.

So came the first attack, both hands coming down like sledgehammers, aimed to crush the joints at either shoulder, to steal away any hope of tossing the explosive blades accurately. Next, the two massive clumps of spiked earth would splash out, exploding from the reaction force of his original chopping strike. The shards would be arrowheads, the supple mud the shafts that would push through muscle, organ and bone. The shrapnel gifted by the hawk would be returned, embedding itself in his legs and robbing the hero of his wings, in his torso to begin the process of bleeding him, robbing him of that vigor with which he fought. The arrows would then act as hooks, the mud lashing to his innards to hold him there. No longer would he be able to dart about with impunity, no longer would he be able to escape the agony he deserved. That was the plan. He would leave the "hero" ripe for whatever torture Diaz could imagine, and his imagination was a grisly one indeed.

But Diaz was no fool. He could see that the tide of battle was not turning against him. It had roiled in rebellion long ago, back when the night-clad hawk had first fired his innards, discovered a weakness even Diaz did not think to shore himself against.

He had hurt the hawk, that much was true, but not sufficiently to put him down without risk. Even his latest assault would not be made without casualty, of that he was sure.

If this continued, the hawk could very well put him down, or away, for good, and that was not a fate he could currently afford.

So, when his body lashed out and his earthen face grew flat, he began to seep the muddy remains of that inert pool into the cracks of the rooftop, the fissures born from his earlier assault on the hero and the explosive response that followed. From there, he had but to toss his possessed earth into the pools already lying on the city streets below, the ones shed by the earlier explosion, and slink off into obscurity once again. At that point, the mud battling on the rooftop would itself become inert, falling to the ground in a puddle, seemingly dead. He would let the hero think him vanquished, but leave him with scars lethal enough to make himself remembered, at least until he returned to complete his intended torture.

He wanted him to suffer, and that would take time. Time he could not spare.

At least not that day.

Avatar image for hawkshade
#36 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

@humansfirst:

Made of mud and menace his slippery rival formed himself into a new monster, tall and lean and covered in scales made from his own scars. Dual clubs studded with jagged spikes swung down. Fast. Hard. But Hawkshade had earned the rank of Strigidae when he was seventeen years of age. He twisted aside.

The mallets of clay hit the ground. Hawkshade felt the impact. Whatever this creature was, it possessed a monstrous strength.

But Hawkshade had not accounted for the way the clay implements exploded when they hit the ground and sprayed barbed clay arrowheads in every direction.

A dozen darts of fired clay shattered against his Armatura. Aramid weave turned aside the sharp edges of Diaz's projectiles and the Polyethylene based sheer hardening fluid stiffened under the impact to protect him from the ballistic force. The high tech armor was his salvation against the keen barbs.

But as he tried to skip aside and take another angle something caught his leg and he tumbled. Two of those barbed clay darts had not penetrated his armor into his flesh but had punched through the first layer and caught between the softer outer layer (which protected him against contact poisons and electricity) and the ballistic and slash resistant inner layer.

Before his back hit the ground a bladed Iaculum was in his fist and he rolled away as it severed the clay bands that tied him to the monster.

He rose and drew another explosive. Regain the offense. Control the tempo. Hawkshade could hear the words of his old teachers, the Secret Masters, as he readied himself for another round against the strangest foe he had ever faced.

But Diaz melted away. As if he was defeated.

At first a rush of jubilation raced through him. He had won. Villain defeated. Hero victorious. Everyone applauds. Roll credits.

But something was nagging at him.

He hadn't thrown a final blow.

Hawkshade knelt and took several samples of the clay.

Then he too melted into the shadows.

Minutes Later..

Richard Vasiliev, CEO of Excalibur Industries staggered out of the smoke and that filled his office. Bruised and battered. His chief of security stood with a cluster of other security officers outside the room, leading the frantic search for their employer.

"Sir?" His jaw dropped and he ran a hand through his military crop. "How.. I mean.. we just checked that room." The man said as he ran to assist Hawkshade who was limping.

"Safe room." Richard said.

"Safe room? But it isn't on the blueprints or the security outline."

"Need to know commander. And you didn't need to know. Now, set up a perimeter against additional attackers or looters. This is Gothic after all. And then set up a medical center. Start moving the wounded to Knightfall hospital. I'll cover any expenses their health insurance doesn't."

Avatar image for hawkshade
#37 Posted by Hawkshade (4947 posts) - - Show Bio

It was 8:45 PM on a Wednesday afternoon. Richard was alone in his office, the secretary sent home for the evening and the building quiet, the silence only broken by the sound of the afternoon janitorial staff. There was a cupcake on the CEO's glossy black desk. Chocolate with vanilla icing; from the cafeteria on the eight floor. He took a matchbook from his pocket and searched his drawers for a candle but didn't find one so he lit the match and stuck it into the cupcake.

He turned twenty one today. He would never turn twenty two. He blew out the match and ate the cupcake.

"Happy birthday Richard."

Then his thoughts turned to more serious maters. The Lavalieres. He walked to the window and stared out over the city with the piercing blue eyes that burned with a sapphire fire below his thick brow. When Grimmwald, a hero, had acquired a Lavaliere he had brought an unprecedented reign of terror to Gothic. The stench of fear still lay upon the city like a choking smog. How much worse then would it be for an evil soul to find a Lavaliere?

Richard tucked his hands into the pockets of his black suit and his brow furrowed in thought. He needed to find them before someone else did. But how?

Start at the beginning Richard.

He organized what he knew of the Lavalieres. Form, matter, means and ends.

The form was of colorful stones. Matter was unknown. The means by which the Lavalieres operated was also unknown to him. But the ends he knew; each stone gave it's bearer power over a category of reality such as time or souls.

Matter, he thought and means.

What were the Lavalieres made from and how did they work? He begin with the basics. All things were composed of energy. Matter was simply highly concentrated energy. It followed that the stones were likewise concentrated energy.

He frowned. He could already see the holes in that theory. Though Richard was not a physicist merely by contemplating the physics puzzle of the Lavaliere he could see the problems that plagued physics attempt to define the universe in meaningful terms.

So what was energy? The ability to do useful (non-entropic) work. Clearly the Lavalieres could control tremendous energies and energies were involved. Somehow possession of the matter of the stone translated into a means by which vast quantities of energy could be manipulated.

Again he frowned. He had defined the matter and means but in such vague terms as to be meaningless.

Try again Richard.

He walked across the vast office to a pool table in the corner, set a ball on the table and rolled another into, bouncing it into one of the pockets.

First ball possesses kinetic energy, moving it across the table. It collides with the second ball and transfers some portion of the energy into the second ball. Second ball now has kinetic energy and moves into the pocket.

The powerfully built CEO rubbed his chin with a hand.

That model implied that energy was a pseudosubstance that could be possessed by matter and transferred from one piece of matter to another. Like spirit possession; the first ball was possessed by kinetic energy until it encountered the second ball and transferred the spirit of kinetic energy into the second ball.

What if we're looking at this all wrong.

He imagined that he could separate from both space and time and stand outside the flow of things and gaze inward at the universe and see all things simultaneously. What then would he see? Would he see some esoteric force being transferred from the first ball to the second or would he instead see objects interacting in both space and time according to strictly defined laws of physics? Ball A encounters ball B at X angle and Y speed and ball B moves at Z angle at U speed. Just one giant math problem.

If that was the case then an intangible property was not being transferred from the first ball into the second but instead 'energy' was a metaphor for the history of matter's change in space as it progressed through time.

He imagined the pool table as a mathematical equation and pictured Planck time (the smallest possible unit of time/space) as the intervals within which an operation (say, multiplication of X times Y) occurred. The physical universe had rules. Every action had an equal and opposite reaction. Energy could be neither created nor destroyed. The entire foundation of science was the stability of these rules; the idea that by repeatedly performing an experiment in the exact same conditions one could generate the exact same results because the rules never changed. X times Y would always be Z. Always.

If one multiplied X times Y and got Z then the state of the equation would change. Then the next operation would be performed; say the addition of Z to A. That would create the next state. Then the next operation would create the next state, and on and on.

Time was the sequence, the order of operations, for the equation that was the universe. Energy didn't exist as a distinct and separate entity. Potential energy was just a term for the value of X in anticipation of it being multiplied, divided or added. Kinetic energy was just a vague description of an operation whose changes to the state of the equation fell within the window of time in which the observer could perceive.

You might say energy was the past and future history of matter. X was multiplied by Y to get Z and soon Z will be divided by G to get B. All governed by rules which could not be broken. If you possessed perfect knowledge of a particle's history in spacetime and that of every other particle it would interact with you could predict it's future with one hundred percent accuracy.

Then what were the Lavalienes? He imagined them as a pencil with an eraser, capable of erasing the predictable outcomes of the equation of reality and replacing them with whatever the bearer desired.

But that isn't true, is it?

No. There was one obvious problem; the stones could only do what they were commanded to do by the wearer and the imagination of the wearer was limited by their thoughts which were themselves limited by the physical structure of the brain and thus the rules of the universal formula.

(Universal Formula, he thought. I've been seeing a piece of it my entire life and never realized it; move reading. Action can be predicted by witnessing the previous action with knowledge of the rules that govern martial combat. Mysteries too. I come upon a crime scene; a state of the universe and I examine each element and by knowing the rules by which the universe functions I work backwards, predicting the history of the scene. Like working an equation backwards from the solution to the original problem to check for mistakes.)

The Lavalieres allowed the bearer to make infinite changes to the state of a things which existed within discrete categories. The Soul Lavaliere gave its owner power over Souls but not Time, for instance.

The scale is unlimited but the scope is limited, he realized. So the Lavaliere of X can always alter the value of X but never Y.

That implied the question; were the Lavalieres an exception to the Universal Formula or part of the universal formula? Were they an invisible hand that could knock the pool ball off course at will or were they another pool ball, moving at incredible speeds and thus possessing incredible energy?

He pondered this question and resolved that the Lavalieres must be part of the Universal Formula. The reasons were two-fold; first because the Lavalieres could not do anything their bearer could not imagine and were thus limited to the concepts generated by the bio-electrical computer known as a brain. Secondly because each Lavaliere was restricted to a category of existence familiar to mortal beings; souls, time, space, power and so forth. It was very unlikely that the Lavalieres would be restricted to these categories were they completely alien to the Formula that was composed of such categories. The Universal Formula was a set of rules that reality operated by and the Lavalieres clearly each had their own rules.

So what are the Lavalieres?

If energy was not an imperceptible pseudosubstance transferred from object to object and instead a description for the scope of a process; a rate of change of the equation of reality through time then each stone represented both a process and a value that could be injected at any point in the Universal Equation.

That was a high level, low resolution view of the means. The Lavalieres injected code directly into the program of reality. It was an SQL insert. A hack.

Reality hacks. A chuckle.

That's form, means and ends. But what about matter, Richard? What are the Lavalieres composed of?

To answer this question he imagined the Lavalieres as computers that interfaced directly with reality and injected their code into the greater code-- the Universal Equation-- of reality.

What does that require? He examined the question as if he were attempting to design a Lavaliere himself, just as he built many of the tools that hung about his belt in his costume.

First he would need to build a way to read and understand the thought into 'reality code' that would bring their desires to life when injected into the Universal Equation. Second he would need some method of generating the 'reality code' within the Lavaliere. Lastly he would need a mechanism to inject that code into the Universal Equation.

Whatever mechanism the Lavalieres used to read the thoughts of their bearers was based on touch; he knew this because everyone who wielded a Lavaliere acquired it the same way Grimmwald had-- by touching it. You couldn't just summon one by thinking about it (Or could you? He tried. Nothing happened.)

Why? He didn't know. Every possibility he conceived he easily disproved moments later. But this lack of knowledge told him something important; the Lavaliere mechanism of action was based on principles he couldn't even conceive of. But someone could and he knew this because objects of such complexity didn't just appear by random. Someone made them.

Wait a minute. If such complexity cannot emerge without a creator than how have x-genes emerged? After all what is the difference in a mutant who can control fire and a Lavaliere that can control Space, except scale and scope? Both turned the thoughts of their bearers into action in the material world. Both are limited in scope; a fire mutant couldn't create bottles of Soda, only fire, the Time Lavaliere didn't control gravity, just time.

He clasped his hands behind his back and paced to and fro in the office. The sun glowed bulging and red outside his office window as it sank beneath the Gothic skyline.

The function of an x-gene is the same as the function of a Lavaliere. It is logical that the mechanism of action is also identical in process if not scope and scale.

The more he thought about the idea the more similarities between the two he saw. All the young mutants in the Temple had to learn to control their x-gene, just as Kellan had to learn to control the Soul Lavaliere.

Were x-genes just a weaker, limited and biological version of Lavalieres? If so what would the physical structure of the x-gene tell him about the Lavaliere?

He was out the door before the thought was fully formed.

Four minutes later he was throwing open the doors to the Excalibur genetic research facility on floor fifty seven. Two bleary eyed scientists looked up from where they huddled around a microscope, trying to meet the deadline on their latest project.

"Out." Richard pointed at the door as he crossed the room, tossing off his suit jacket and rolling up his left sleeve. They scampered from the room.

He tore through the cabinets until he found a syringe, tied off his bicep with his belt and drew blood. Several times.

Then he locked the doors and begin his experiments.

He never even thought to call Ashley for he was too absorbed in the question of the Lavalieres; his last and greatest mystery.